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Posted on: February 14, 2019

EPA takes positive step toward regulating PFAS

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Beginning the process of setting federal maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for PFOA and PFOS is a significant, promising step toward establishing regulatory certainty for CFPUA and other agencies responsible for providing safe water to our communities.

The step is part of a larger action plan for PFAS compounds announced today by Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In a letter last month, William Norris, CFPUA board chairman, urged Wheeler to establish enforceable limits on PFOA and PFAS.

In 2016, EPA announced a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA and PFOS, either separately or in combination, in drinking water. The health advisory is not enforceable. 

By contrast, an MCL is a legal limit on the concentration of a substance allowed in public drinking water under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). MCLs have been established for 88 substances since 1974, when the SDWA became effective. 

According to the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies: “The timeline for promulgating an MCL is outlined in SDWA. The release of this strategy document does not start this timeline, as an official determination must be made by the administrator and put out for notice and comment in the Federal Register. Once a final determination to regulate a contaminant is made, EPA has up to 24 months to publish a maximum level contaminant goal (MCLG) and propose a regulation (MCL) for the contaminant. Following the MCL proposal, the agency has up to 18 months to publish the final MCL and promulgate a national primary drinking water regulation.”

PFOA and PFOS are two of the best-known compounds in a large class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. 

CFPUA regularly analyzes drinking water treated at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant for levels of PFAS compounds, including PFOA and PFOS. The latest results showed PFOA at 3.18 ppt and PFOS at 4.31 ppt.

CFPUA’s PFAS monitoring began after representatives of the Chemours Co. told our community in June 2017 that their chemical plant near Fayetteville had been discharging GenX and other PFAS compounds into the Cape Fear River since about 1980.

Later this year, the CFPUA board will consider approving construction of upgrades to Sweeney necessary to address Chemours’ releases of PFAS compounds. The upgrades will cost $46 million to construct and $2.9 million a year to operate. CFPUA has sued Chemours to recover those and other costs and damages associated with Chemours actions.

“This is undoubtedly good news for CFPUA and the community we serve,” Jim Flechtner, executive director of CFPUA, said regarding the EPA’s announcement. “We continue to see the results of past actions by Chemours in our monitoring of water treated at Sweeney Water Treatment Plant. The overwhelming majority of PFAS compounds we detect are found only downstream of Chemours’ Fayetteville Works chemical plant.”


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